Tranmere 1 Millwall 2
By Richard Jolly
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The Lions are potential play-off rivals of Mick McCarthy's side and strikes from Tim Cahill and Neil Harris ensure the two teams will be pitted against one another again at Old Trafford on April 4.
Their goals within five first-half minutes were testimony to the quality within Dennis Wise's side. More stereotypical Millwall values were required in a second-half stalemate after Gary Jones gave Tranmere hope.
Indeed, had two injury-time headers from the lively Iain Hume not been directed straight at Andy Marshall, the Birkenhead side's reputation as cup kings could have been enhanced by a place in the last four.
Instead, Wise, with an enviable cup pedigree of his own, progresses in his first season in management. The vagaries of the FA Cup draw means only Sunderland separates him from a place in Europe.
If Millwall's cup progress has been entirely free of Premiership opposition, there will be few complaints in South East London. Self-styled outsiders would surely relish a role as the greatest of all final underdogs against either Manchester United or Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium.
But, as in their last semi-final in 1937, Millwall must find a way past Sunderland first. Crucial to their quarter final progress was a former Black Cat, Daniele Dichio. His nippier team-mates claimed the goals, but the lanky Dichio was the pivot for Millwall's attacks and provider of both opportunities. His cushioned header fed Cahill for the 11th-minute opener, though the Australian's trademark run was well-timed and his finish was assured.
Five minutes later, it was 2-0. Dichio chested the ball to strike partner Harris for a sublime 20-yard volley which left John Achterberg clawing at thin air.
The Dutch goalkeeper frustrated Millwall at The New Den and denied Dichio in the replay, parrying a header from Paul Ifill's cross. The same combination brought an identical result after the interval, Ifill supplying Dichio and Achterberg on hand to save Tranmere.
But Prenton Park has witnessed many a stirring cup comeback and by then Tranmere were threatening another after a resuffle from Brian Little.
Their never-say-die spirit was in evidence in Gary Jones' confrontation with Kevin Muscat which earned both a yellow card. The bustling makeshift forward then roused his team with a near-post header to reduce the deficit after Hume twisted, turned and crossed from the right wing.
Jones was on defensive duty when these teams last met. His move into attack almost yielded a second goal after a corner, but he bundled the ball wide. Gareth Roberts and David Beresford weighed in with attempts from distance, neither far off target but not troubling Andy Marshall.
Centre backs Matt Lawrence and Darren Ward, however, could be forgiven for feeling themselves overworked, especially after the introduction of Tranmere top scorer Eugene Dadi. He almost forced extra time as a spell of pinball in the Millwall box culminated with the forward firing wide, much to the relief of Marshall, who had dived the wrong way. For Millwall, Marshall's myopia mattered little.